The new Stoked Wood Fired Pizza Co. in Brookline is making pizzas based on a chewy, full-flavored, long-rise dough that is charred on the bottom (and cooked through!), along with a few appetizers that include delicious meatballs in a light tomato sauce.
Stoked began as a truck two years ago, and when owners Scott Riebling and Toirm Miller found the space in Washington Square — the location had been Cafe Nicholas for many years and Sunny Boy very briefly — it came with a liquor license and that “closed the deal,” says Riebling, who wanted to be able to serve craft cocktails. They’re a good mix of classic and updated; the beer list veers toward the eccentric, with too few choices that pair readily with food.
Barely a month after its opening, Zagat praised Stoked. Instant success has its drawbacks, but the lively Riebling is optimistic that he’ll get past a few bumps. The Pittsburgh native, a bass player who came to Boston to study at Berklee, went on to play with the likes of Letters to Cleo, Tracy Bonham, Nina Gordon, and Weezer. He started making pizza for band practice. He turned it into a sideline, recording music and flying off to pizzerias around the country to teach cooks how to make dough. “It was a little consulting business,” says Riebling, “and as I saw some of those people become successful, I said, ‘Hey, that’s my pizza recipe.’ ” So he put a single truck on the road.
Toirm Miller is running the front of the house. He began as a dishwasher in Hartford, was a Boston Duck Tours driver, and in 2009 founded Jack and the Bean Bowl, a cart in Copley Square.
One of the reasons Stoked can turn out a crust that is completely cooked through — why can’t other places get this right? — is a slowly spinning pizza floor. Riebling the musician compares the bottom of his Italian-made Pavesi oven to a record-player turntable. The motion makes the crust cook and char evenly.
The dough rises three times over two days, like artisan bread. Rounds of dough with their toppings spend two to three minutes in the oven, which is both wood- and gas-fired. The chewy, charred pies support top-quality ingredients. On cheese pizza ($11 for a pie that serves 2), a light tomato sauce is topped with fresh and aged mozzarella, with a single charred basil leaf in the center. If you can make an exceptional Margherita, you can do anything else. So a pepperoni pizza ($14) is another fine pie, with the spicy meat on top (you can add Mike’s Hot Honey, which offers more heat, but the sweetness seems odd here). Smashed meatballs and ricotta ($15) takes some of the wonderful appetizer meatballs and adds dollops of ricotta, basil oil, and aged mozzarella.
While you wait for your pizza, nibble those meatballs ($10), made with pancetta, salami, roasted vegetables, and breadcrumbs from the pizza dough, served in tomato sauce sprinkled with cheese. Brussels sprouts ($8) with maple syrup and tamari are charred but undercooked on one visit, tender but too saucy on another. In addition to spicy Buffalo wings ($10), there are Calabrian sweet chile wings ($10). Both are steamed first, then fried, and served with ranch dressing, but the Calabrian are sweet, salty, and crunchy. They taste like wings I used to eat as a kid in Chinese restaurants that cooked for Americans.
Stoked salad ($8) — with heirloom lettuces, shreds of carrots, cucumbers, Peruvian peppers (tiny, tear-shaped red dots that taste like cherry tomatoes with a pinch of heat) — is beautiful one time with its shallot dressing, and overdressed another time. That second bowl does not contain heirloom lettuces, but rather something I call Yuppie Chow, all mesclun. “I ran out of lettuces,” Riebling admits later on the phone. Someone went to the Whole Foods down the street and brought home Spring Mix.
The Buffalo Brussels sprouts pizza ($14) is a waste of this unusual crust. The young, amiable, unflaggingly willing staff could use a little more polish. But the tiny Rice Krispies squares that come with the bill put you in the mood to overlook glitches.
For these treats, Riebling takes the back-of-the-box recipe and adds brown butter and sea salt. It’s these little flourishes that make the place so likable. Plus beautiful pizza crust, wood fire, and cheerfulness.
STOKED WOOD FIRED PIZZA CO.
1632 Beacon St., Washington Square, Brookline, 617-879-0707, www.stokedpizzaco.com. All major credit cards. Wheelchair accessible.
Prices Appetizers $8-$10. Pizzas $11-$15.
Hours Sun-Mon 11 a.m.- 9 p.m., Tue-Thu 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri-Sat 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Liquor Full license.
What to order Brussels sprouts, meatballs, Calabrian sweet chile wings, Stoked salad, cheese pizza, pepperoni pizza, smashed meatball pizza, Italian sausage pizza.
Sheryl Julian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @sheryljulian.